It may seem like more work, but keeping your warehouse organized pays off a lot in the long run. It doesn’t require that much work as long as you stay on top of it. Many times, however, the vastness of a warehouse can feel overwhelming, and that gets in the way of regular maintenance.
Here are some tips for managing your warehouse in a way that will have your business running more efficiently in no time.
1. Maximize the space you have.
It may take a little creativity, but this is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve efficiency. Before you jump to planning a warehouse expansion, make sure you’re getting the most out of the vertical space you already have. Invest in some taller storage units along with the proper equipment to retrieve inventory. Also, consider the shelving type you currently use. You should have a variety, because not all materials fit on the same type of rack. For instance, using pallets to store small items wastes space and makes it easy to lose something. Make sure there is sufficient space for forklifts and other machinery to maneuver around. Standardize how your bins are marked to avoid confusion. This keeps things looking uncluttered and orderly.
2. Use what technology has to offer.
Find a good warehouse management system (WMS), or an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with a decent WMS module. This type of technology boosts efficiency by figuring out the best routes for pickups and dropoffs, and keeping track of inventory using barcodes and radio frequency identification (RFID). This reduces selection errors, wasted time, and paper, and improves the accuracy of transactions. For example, Elite Ops utilizes the industry-leading Royal 4 WMS, along with a highly trained staff to keep track of clients’ products.
3. Use bin locations.
This system ensures fast, accurate location of inventory in your warehouse. Bin locations also make it possible for you to store product based on sales, which means you don’t have to travel as far to look for the top-selling products that appear on most orders. They also help you plan your warehouse layout more effectively—put the high-demand products close to reduce loading and unloading time.
4. Organization is everything.
It’s a good idea to inspect your locations regularly and go over how things are organized. It may have been well-organized when you last left it, but it could be a different story now. Is the inventory organized in a way that it’s easily and safely accessed by an employee? Make sure there’s a space set aside for damaged items, and that they are being taken care of every day. Without consistent maintenance, organization can quickly devolve into chaos. Don’t wait for a problem to arise before you do something—come up with a daily checklistfor your warehouse manager.
Sometimes your WMS won’t have the capability to determine the most efficient routes, so you have to create them yourself. As mentioned earlier, it’s generally most effective to keep high-selling items up near the front to reduce travel time. You should also keep track of items that are commonly sold together, and store those items near each other. The basic idea is to reduce picking delays by storing products that you sell most often in the most accessible locations.
5. Predict inventory demand.
Most businesses have predictable “seasons”—periods when their products are in high demand, and periods when that demand dwindles. Unless there is a fairly stable demand for a product, it doesn’t make good business sense to keep the same level of inventory year-round. It wastes money and space. Your warehousing management process should involve using a company’s past sales trends to determine your stock amounts throughout the year.